This section is from the book "The Practical Book Of Interior Decoration", by Harold Donaldson Eberlein, Abbot Mcclure, Edward Stratton Holloway. See also: The Victorian House Book: A Practical Guide to Home Repair and Decoration.
THE treatment of walls is one of the fundamentals of decoration; and this is evident when we realise that no furnishing, however handsome in itself, will constitute a good interior unless the walls, also, have been adequately studied and carried out in accordance with the principles of good design.
Walls, with their " trim," ceilings, and floors compose the shell of the room; and to these may be added the shades and curtains of the windows and the doors or hangings. So intimately are all these connected one with another in any scheme of decoration that no one of them should be proceeded with until all have been taken into account; nor should the treatment of that shell be decided upon without a consideration of that which is to occupy it - the furniture, with its covering, especially as to colour and pattern, and the various subsidiary objects of use and ornament.
As is indicated by the title of this chapter, walls may either be decorative or simple but adequate and beautiful backgrounds. Extremely spacious rooms, such as ball-rooms and the more public rooms of palatial houses need a decorative treatment (such as the Italian Renaissance, Adam, Louis XV and Louis XVI styles afford) and less imposing premises are often susceptible of a due amount of decoration in the wall surfaces, which will be shown as we proceed. The drawing-rooms of small houses and apartments may frequently be given a more ornamental character than the private rooms without a disturbance of the unities, and in such properties the "Modern" decoration (considered at the end of this chapter) will also be found a resource of value. On the other hand, the treatment of walls as backgrounds is often the best, as it is the most generally feasible, method; so that both styles will have equal attention here, the simply painted or papered wall being as carefully considered as the most elaborate.
A particularly careful consideration of Walls during the historic periods has been given in Part I, and the chapters on International-Interperiod Decoration (Part III) indicates those to be used under each of the great decorative influences. The subject is now expanded by thei taking up here of the methods most of value to the present-day householder, including some of the less usual effects by way of suggestion to those who wish to give individuality to their homes.
Before treating of the more simple painting or papering it will be well to consider walls of a constructional nature. In the adoption of such walls the services of an architect or decorator are required, but it is advisable that the reader should here at least consider their possibility and advantages.
When, in the eighteenth century, wainscotting gradually dwindled to a panelled dado (and finally to mere baseboard and cornice) the plastered portion of the wall was either in white or in such tints as cream, grey, or light green, or else covered with fabric, or the wall-papers which by then had come in fashion. Such papers might either be in monotone or polychrome; or, as suggested above, in gold or silver.
Able architects, both here and abroad, in certain instances use wood with plaster to such an extent that the result may probably be considered a combination wall. The woodwork consists of inglenooks, built-in furniture, special features and beamed ceilings, and so altogether charming and homelike are most of these effects that they are especially called to the attention of the reader. Two of these are illustrated here (Plate 66 A and B), and others will be found in Plates 53 and 78 B. In such cases the wall itself may be in white, tint, or in a strong tone, harmonising either by likeness or contrast with the woodwork and the furnishings. Woodwork will be considered at the end of this chapter.
Other combination walls are those of stone, brick or tile with plaster, and each of these may have its use in appropriate situations.